December 16, 2012


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Lot 281: Alexander Calder

Lot 281: Alexander Calder


Hand-hammered silver and steel wire
The work is registered in the archive of The Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A23874.
6" x 4"
Provenance: Private Collection, California (Gift from the artist on the occasion of the recipient's 40th birthday); Thence by descent
Literature: Rower, Alexander S.C., ed. Calder Jewelry. New York: Calder Foundation, 2007. pp 54-55 (similar examples illustrated).
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Price Realized: $37,500
Inventory Id: 4188

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Primarily recognized for their innovations in Surrealist sculpture, Jean Arp (1886-1966) and Alexander Calder (1898-1976) employed some of the same techniques used to create their large-scale works to produce stunning pieces of biomorphic jewelry. More than just a departure from abstract paintings and mobiles, jewelry, for Arp and Calder, was regarded as fine art, a diminutive exploration of sculptural forms. Calder even preferred to exhibit his jewelry alongside his sculptures, suggesting a “non-hierarchical approach much in keeping with the way Bauhaus teachers would instruct compositional principles that were as easily applied to painting as to tapestry.” In his brooch from 1957, a single piece of silver is bent and twisted into his characteristic spirals, and the surface – undulating hills and valleys of texture – bears the same hammer strikes of a large sculpture. It assumes new life and movement the moment it is mounted on the wearer. Likewise, Jean Arp’s brooch (circa 1945) began as a flat piece of metal. He cut holes and shaped the edges, elevating the material to a three-dimensional phantasm poised for spontaneous motion. Arp gave this piece as a gift to Josine Janco, daughter of artist and Dada co-founder Marcel Janco.

Surrealists conjured life out of everyday objects, and Man Ray (1890-1976) believed that “the idea was always more important than the actual work.” Arising from a mishap in 1920, Man Ray demonstrated this belief with an ordinary piece of metal. On the night before his exhibition was set to open, a janitor accidentally threw away Man Ray’s first version of Lampshade, a spiraled piece of paper hanging from an armature. He was distraught, but upon the suggestion of Katherine Dreier, artist and art patron who co-founded the modern art venue Société Anonyme with Duchamp and Man Ray, he reconstructed Lampshade out of painted metal. Once flat and inert, this example from 1964 becomes a Dada readymade that produces a movement all its own.

Baldwin, Neil. Man Ray: American Artist. New York: Man Ray Trust, 1988. Print.
Rosenthal, Mark. “Sculpture to Jewelry.” Calder Jewelry. Ed. Alexander S.C. Rower. New York: Calder Foundation, 2007. pp 51-67. Print.
Tait, Liv. “Man Ray, Museo d’Arte Lugano.” The Tait Global., 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.